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Comcast says the Big Ten Network will soon be blacked out for out-of-market customers

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Watching some sporting events might become a lot harder for some Big Ten fans.

The Big Ten Network Kick Off Party Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images for Wink Public Relations

Big Ten sports fans might be in for a rude awakening if they live in select areas of the Comcast footprint. On Thursday, the telecom giant’s customer service account tweeted that the Big Ten Network will soon be removed from its lineup for some customers.

At first, Comcast said it was dropping the network entirely.

But clarified in a separate tweet with a qualifier:

On Friday, a BTN spokesperson released the following statement:

“Like legions of Big Ten fans across the country, we were disappointed to learn that Comcast Corporation unilaterally decided to drop the Big Ten Network from Xfinity in many regions outside the home markets of the Big Ten universities. The outpouring of concern and outrage from fans nationwide speaks for itself – BTN is a valuable part of Comcast’s sports lineup, and we share their frustration at Comcast’s decision to deprive them of hundreds of exclusive games and programming featuring some of the most iconic universities in the country.”

Comcast’s website shows that it has one of the country’s biggest media markets within its footprint: Chicago.

Big Ten Network programming includes multiple live football and basketball games every week during both sports’ respective seasons. Per Comcast, you can watch the Big Ten Network on Comcast in every state within the Big Ten footprint excluding Iowa and Nebraska (because Comcast doesn’t serve customers there). Comcast subscribers in every other state in the union are out. That will affect Comcast subscribers in big metro areas like Atlanta, Miami, and Boston.

This isn’t public posturing during a rights negotiation either, this is a done deal, per Comcast.

We’ll see what happens to Big Ten Network revenue due to the loss in subscriber fees. Those are the portions of your bill that go directly to the network every month (between $0.39 and $1 for BTN). Networks want to inflate them so they generate more revenue, and cable companies want to lower them.

As that Comcast tweet notes, subscribers can still watch live games (the main leverage that sports cable networks have in negotiations) on Big Ten’s streaming service, BTN2Go. But to do that, fans will need a cable subscription. It’s unclear what will happen to BTN2Go if the network gets blacked out on May 10 for out-of-market customers. For now, Comcast is still listed as a BTN2Go provider.

We’ve reached out to both Big Ten Network and Comcast for comment on the situation.